The Haituo Farmers' Skiing Team trains under a Swiss coach at a ski resort in Yanqing District in Beijing on December 7, 2020 (XINHUA)
Chen Chen used to be a veterinarian in Yanqing, a suburban district in northwest Beijing, the city that is going to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 together with Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province.
When China won the bid for the Winter Games in 2015, Chen's enthusiasm for winter sports was ignited. He developed an interest in skiing and bought the entire paraphernalia, including a helmet and a ski suit. Then he went to a local ski resort to have his first go at skiing.
It was a disaster and he often fell but he didn't give up. Instead, he became even more fascinated with the sport. Every day after work he checked his phone apps for skiing tips, read books and watched online videos besides training regularly. Gradually he became a good skier, mastering even difficult techniques.
In 2019, the local government agency he worked for recommended him for the Yanqing organizing committee of Beijing 2022. He became a committee member and participated in training for alpine skiing referees, passing the test for referees at the national level. The certification made him one of the few Yanqing locals qualified to be an alpine skiing referee at Beijing 2022.
In recent years, many people like Chen have taken up winter sports or acquired new expertise related to the Winter Games.
The Yanqing Government has also launched several drives to prepare locals for serving the Games. In 2018, it started a training program for ice and snow sports, drone piloting, and volunteer services.
Eye in the sky
Zhang Jian, a local resident, received training in drone piloting and flew his first drone formally during a forest fire drill. Using the remote control deftly, he made the vehicle take off without a hitch, locate the fire and drop a fire extinguishing bomb on it, putting it out immediately.
The 34-year-old used to be an odd-job man with no stable income. In June 2019, the Yanqing bureau of human resources and social security offered free drone flying training to the locals and Zhang signed up immediately.
He found the aerial vehicles fascinating. "You can see the rivers and the Great Wall very clearly in the aerial photos taken by the drones. It's very interesting," Zhang told Beijing Review. With outstanding performance in the training, he passed a test, received his license in drone piloting and was offered a job. Just eight months after his recruitment, his salary increased from 4,000 yuan ($610) to over 5,000 yuan ($762) a month.
Drones are widely used to monitor farmland and forest fires, as well as to patrol the Great Wall and power lines in Yanqing. During the Winter Games, they will also be used to provide security services.
By 2020, over 200 people had been trained to fly drones and some of them had found related jobs.
Besides drone pilots, Yanqing has also trained 100 new firefighters. Sun Zhengping, a former office worker, is among them. "The training and drills are exhausting but the work is meaningful," Sun told People's Daily.
Firefighters demonstrate new models of forest fire extinguishing equipment at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition Park in Yanqing on October 6, 2020 (XINHUA)
Lang Enge, a resident of Tiansongying Village in Yanqing, fell in love with skiing when he was a primary school student. As his school was close to a skiing resort, he often went there to ski in winter.
After graduating from vocational college, he became a cook in downtown Beijing, specializing in roast ducks. However, he didn't like the job and returned to his village to farm and raise sheep.
In 2014, he spent more than 10,000 yuan ($1,525) to buy over 10 lambs. But after Beijing and Zhangjiakou won the bid to cohost the Winter Olympics, the local government stepped up environmental protection. They persuaded him to give up sheep raising as it polluted the rivers and damaged the grassland.
So Lang sold his sheep and found a job as a municipal administration assistant. The new job gave him more time to ski and one day, he saw several teams training at the ski resort he frequented. He thought since his hometown was going to host the Winter Games, he should set up a team to improve his own skiing and also teach more people to ski.
Accordingly, in July 2017, he established the Haituo Farmers' Skiing Team with 17 other people under his captaincy. The team was named after the Xiaohaituo Mountain in Yanqing, where the alpine skiing event for Beijing 2022 will be held.
Most of the team members are farmers, the rest community workers, gardeners and drivers. Their average age is below 30 and most of them have been skiing for over 10 years.
In December 2017, the team received training from professional coaches from Switzerland organized by the district sports bureau and 11 members passed the test for Swiss national skiing coaches. Lang was one of them.
The team is popularizing skiing to support the upcoming Winter Games. It has taught the basics of skiing to students in three local schools and trained over 100 local farmers. It has also trained volunteer teams such as the Blue Sky Rescue Team, a private non-profit organization established in 2008 for emergency rescues, to improve the volunteers' skiing skills for the Games.
Lang hopes more people in his hometown can do winter sports-related work like him. His wish is to become a full-time ski coach in future.
Yanqing has also trained 3,600 volunteers for the Games. One of them is Wang Jinlan, a 57-year-old who runs a homestay. In the past decade her business has expanded from a small one with only 10 rooms to one that can provide accommodation for 200 people. When she learned about the volunteer training, Wang joined immediately.
The training has taught her emergency rescue skills and social etiquette, which she is passing onto her team. Wang said through the training, she has learned how to make guests feel at home.
"We will step up training to provide more volunteers for the Winter Games," Dai Guoliang, an official with the Yanqing bureau of human resources and social security, said.
(Print Edition Title: Grow With the Snow)
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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